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Wednesday, 17 June 2009 19:36

The Naturalist's Corner

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Birds of a feather

Yep, they’ll be flocking June 25 at 10 a.m. at the North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmstead Way in Asheville. The event will commemorate the publication of North Carolina Birding Trail’s Mountain Trail Guide. The mountains section is the third and final component to NCBT’s outstanding collaborative effort to, in its own words, “... conserve and enhance North Carolina’s bird habitat by promoting sustainable bird-watching activities, economic opportunities and conservation education.”

The 105 sites in the Mountain Trail Guide join 102 Coastal Plain Trail Guide sites and 103 sites from the Piedmont Trail Guide. So when you hit U.S. 64 in Murphy and see the sign that says Manteo, Nc. 563 miles don’t think of it as a looonnnnngggg drive but rather an opportunity to visit as many of the 310 outstanding birding sites across the state as time will allow.

According to the guides’ publisher UNC Press, “...the Mountain Trail Guide presents 105 premier birding destinations in the North Carolina mountains, from the Tennessee border in the west to Interstate 77 in the east. The spiral-bound volume features maps, detailed site descriptions, and color photographs throughout. Each site description includes directions as well as information on access, focal species and habitats, and on-site visitor amenities. Special “while you’re in the area” listings accompany each of eighteen site groupings, so visitors can travel to a cluster of birding destinations and enjoy other local highlights and attractions along the way.”

A number of those mountain sites like Lake Junaluska, Max Patch, Heintooga Spur Road and the southern Great Balsam Mountains adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway are here in Haywood County.

Representatives from the six agencies - NC Wildlife Resources Commission, NC State Parks, Audubon NC, US Fish & Wildlife Service, NC Sea Grant, and NC Cooperative Extension – that partnered to create the NCBT will be at the Arboretum to talk a little about the project and the results.

Field trips to some of the sites will be offered in the afternoon. And if you don’t want to get in your car – the Arboretum is one of the mountain sites. The Arboretum boasts a species list of more than 100 birds.

The Arboretum is the perfect place to highlight NCBT’s efforts to link birders with communities and cultural and environmental attractions as participants will have an opportunity to take in Birds: The Science of Illustration a new exhibit at The Baker Exhibit Center featuring the art and work of H. Douglass Pratt, ornithologist, artist and research curator of birds at the NC State Museum of Natural Sciences and local artist and field guide illustrator John C. Sill of Franklin.

Regrettably I cannot personally attest to Pratt’s work, though I’m sure it is of the utmost quality or it wouldn’t be on exhibit. I can tell you from personal experience that John’s bird art is not only strikingly beautiful but that the attention to detail is impeccable.

Additional exhibit features include: A bird nest collection, containing nests and egg replicas of local songbirds; An interactive bird song display to test and instruct visitors on recognizing songbirds by vocalizations; A habitat match-up interactive mural designed to teach concepts of animal needs and the distinct habitats of local birds in habitats that occur in WNC; An illustration table with sketch paper, pencils, erasers and colored pencils; and Discovery Packs containing binoculars for children to check out birds in the gardens are also available for families to enhance their exploration.

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